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Long-term impacts of school nutrition: Evidence from China’s school meal reform

Guanfu Fang and Ying Zhu

World Development, 2022, vol. 153, issue C

Abstract: Child malnutrition remains a major public health concern, especially in many developing countries. This paper examines the long-term effects of a school meal program on individuals’ cognitive and health outcomes in rural China. Exploiting the staggered implementation of the Student Nutrition Improvement Program (SNIP), we find that early exposure to the SNIP (ages 6–15) significantly improved children’s cognitive and health outcomes in the long run. These effects are not observed in urban residents who experienced similar socioeconomic changes in the same county. Empirical tests suggest that short-term improvements in children’s nutrient intakes and mothers’ labor market performance were likely to be potential mechanisms. Moreover, the effects of early exposure to the SNIP are stronger among children from low-socioeconomic status families. Our results suggest that the school nutrition program could be an important investment in children’s long-run human capital. This may be relevant for many developing countries today that attempt to provide or have provided subsidized school meals.

Keywords: School meal; Cognitive ability; Health status; Mechanism (search for similar items in EconPapers)
JEL-codes: H51 I12 O15 (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2022
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DOI: 10.1016/j.worlddev.2022.105854

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